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Ryan’s greatest hits

March 30 2003: my second child, Ryan Nicholas came into the world, peeing and pooping all over my insides. He has not stopped surprising me from that moment on. I have been reflecting on his pronounced antics and came up a few highlights. Thirteen years would not seem enough time to procure a ‘greatest hits’, but this kid has such a range of tricks, there are enough to share for now.

The Cake Burglar

This moment stands out so clearly because it was one of the first time there would be no doubting the wheels were turning in his head. (This is straight from my book, but it took a long time to craft those words, so why reinvent?) Upon giving him chocolate cake for the first time…

“Ryan’s expression was one of pure astonishment. I could almost read his mind: What the hell have you kept this from me? I laughed, knowing he was amazed at how delicious cake was….and he absolutely inhaled his piece…I set him on the chair….he hovered on his knees, looking intently at his grandma’s plate. Grandma is a dainty, polite eater—completely opposite of my children and me….Ryan tapped Grandma on the shoulder and said, “Gama—wook,” as he pointed over her shoulder toward the television. She turned around to see what he was pointing at, and in one fast motion, he swiped her cake and shoved it into his mouth…He just grinned sideways and began to look to other plates.”

Observant Manners

When he was almost five, he was intrigued with watching us in the kitchen, and pouring all types of liquid. His language had slowly returned and one morning he was right by my side as I walked around the kitchen. He sat himself up on the counter looked me in the eye (which was a rarity at that time) and asked: “Mom, wine or coffee?” I had him repeat the question, because I wanted to be sure what he was asking, and was relishing in interaction and didn’t want it to end. I looked at my watch and in a reluctant stoic voice I said, “well…it’s morning, so probably coffee.” He shrugged and helped me make the coffee-well at least pour the water in. The remarkable part of this (aside from me turning down wine) is he was perceptive enough to know those were/are my two favorite beverages; and he had learned to be considerate and ask which I wanted to partake in.

Crowd control

When he was in first grade (the first time) his dear teacher tried so hard to make him successful with good behaviors. After many days of receiving a red card (which those not familiar with the ‘behavior card system’ red indicates a bad day) he had finally earned a green card. I unknowingly arrived at the moment she announced this to the class, perhaps hoping the support of his peers would encourage further good behavior. The entire class cheered loudly; I would have thought this ruckus would have been upsetting to him. But he stood there soaking in the cheers, grinning widely. Slowly he put his hands up to quiet the crowd and said, “Childrens, childrens, that’s enut (enough).” Of course this way to address a crowd came from a movie, but how surprisingly appropriate for the moment.

Charlie Brown

As he grew, he began to like dressing up for Halloween. After three years in a row of being Sponge Bob, we asked what he wanted to be for Halloween. Not really expecting a different answer, Ryan replied he wanted to be Charlie Brown. Thrilled for a change, we searched for the trademark yellow striped shirt and brown shorts. But as he was watching “The Great Pumpkin” one evening, I pointed to Charlie Browns sad, too many-holed, ghost costume; and said “Do you want to wear this for Halloween?” He replied with an emphatic ‘yes’. Jenna was kind enough to volunteer to paint black circles all over a white bed sheet—in mimic of Charlie’s costume (which said black circles are still present on my garage floor today). We measured his real eyeholes and his costume was ready. Halloween evening we placed the sheet over his head, and he ran outside to the flower planter, grabbed something we couldn’t see and then strode over to our then-teenage neighbor and said: “I got a rock.” For Ryan to remember the line that Charlie Brown uses after each disappointing house in “The Great Pumpkin”, and then act it out so suavely, was quite simply, hysterical.

Not the Donald

When I was laid up after surgery two years ago, my younger sister came to help me with the kids. Upon my instruction, she took Ryan to his favorite place to eat: In and Out Burger. After spending the morning with her in my car, he apparently had enough. He refused to eat his cheeseburger and then loudly told her in the middle of the restaurant she wasn’t his mom, stop driving his mom’s car and added for effect (in a very Trump-esque way) “you are fired!” I’m not entirely sure where he got that reference, and as horribly humiliating it was to my sister, it is lasting comedy to us. He then decided when my older sister came for her shift a few days later that whatever she would say to him he would reply sternly “Not you!” and look away from her.  At least she didn’t’ get fired.

I have a Ryan-montage in my head, acting out his favorite scenes that I wish I could put on a screen: from Bruce Almighty (“Excuse me, do you have a spoon?”); or from Antz (“Who the hell is that?”); or Dumb and Dumber (“It’s okay, I’m a limo driver!); or Austin Powers (“Yeah Baby!”).  The show could go on and on…and if you could see it, you too would hold your sides in hilarity.

There will undoubtedly be many more moments Ryan surprises us and the rest of the world with his wit and humor. I can only marvel at  where he’s come from and continue wishing for the wonder of where he is going.

Happy 13th, little man.


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There are seemingly mundane things I plan, coordinate, and perseverate on, like getting my carpets cleaned. I revel in anything that improves the cleanliness of my house.   But something about clean floors is a downright religious moment for me. I come by that mania rightly–my aunts too had that obsession. I remember watching my aunt clean and re-clean her kitchen floor because it was streaky and felt sticky. So glad that trait came down to me. But back to my impending carpet cleaning: my random-OCD acted up and suddenly every inch of carpet upstairs had to be cleaned. I moved everything I could physically muster, off the carpets and into the bathrooms; then enlisted Dan to help me move the heavier things, like chairs and side tables.   I decided as long as the cleaner was here, perhaps he could clean the rugs downstairs too. Oh heavenly clean bliss was about to come my way.

Obviously what follows is, well, wet carpets and rugs.   Our wonderful carpet guy offered to leave his industrial fans to dry my rugs. I was thrilled! It’s the little things remember.

However, when my very routine son comes home and the house is in disarray, all my grand plans float away like smoke. My idea for blocking the stairs with a kitchen chair (so the dog won’t put his yucky paws on my clean carpet) and leaving the shuddering fans to dry the rugs overnight—were about to cause havoc.

At first, I thought priming Ryan would make it go smoothly. I explained the carpets were wet and things had to stay off them, like toys and dog feet. He seemed okay and I had hope it would all be fine-until we got home and he discovered the chair out of place and the raucous fans. Plus, all his toys in the family room had been moved from the distinct places he had put them.

As I started mindlessly sweeping the dog hair clusters the fans had blown from under the couch, I see Ryan making frantic trips back and forth to his toy closet putting toy animals away. I had to stop and concentrate over the din of the fans to realize he was bordering on tears.

How could I have been so caught up in the glory of fresh carpets that I overlooked how it would make it feel? This isn’t my first go round at dealing with change and Ryan–so don’t think me insensitive.  It’s the progress he has made; he rolls with things so much easier than when he was younger. He transitions to changes in plans with hardly ever a batting of his eye. He can tell me verbally when he’s getting upset. But today I’m not sure planning or priming would have helped. It was too loud and too many things out of place. The one thing he finds peace in is coming home to his house with all his stuff where he left it.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I should have watched for his reaction as we walked in the door to the noise and the displacement of furniture. If I could have heard his gasps as we walked in the door, I would have stopped. But, I was deafened by the noise and caught up in the continual job of cleaning. It’s hard to stop once you start.

As I stood there with the broom and a pile of dog hair and watched his disturbed face, I knew I had a choice. I could stop his unease very simply. Though I wanted those rugs dry as quickly as possible, I realized it wasn’t worth it to stress him out. They are just rugs and will probably dry on their own overnight.  And I’ll just have to watch the mongrel dog to make sure he didn’t go up the stairs with his messy self.

Fans were turned off and put aside. The chair was put back at the dining table and I saw a visible change in him. He asked if he could put on a movie and then carefully began placing his toys where they belong. Peace returned.

I sat down to ruminate on my thoughts of choices I make for each of my children.  Simple thins, like how I choose to make their breakfast and lunch every morning (Dan helps too); how I choose to take and pick them up from school; how I choose special treats at the store; how I choose to spend a Friday night with them watching a movie; how I choose their happiness over mine and would everyday.  It’s worth every offering, even my beloved clean carpets to keep them happy.  I will forgo my silly cleanly pleasures–I will forgo anything for them.  And I will do this until I no longer can.

That’s when I heard the dog retching about to throw up…

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